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-   -   [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous (http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=154024)

johndallman 12-22-2017 03:40 PM

[Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous
 
Callous [-5] is a mundane mental disadvantage with no self-control roll. You are aware of other people's feelings and pains, to the degree that normal people are, but they just don't matter to you. This is incompatible with Low Empathy, where you're simply unaware of feelings. You will happily use people's feelings to manipulate them, and don't care about the consequences for them. You aren't forced to be cruel, but you are definitely ruthless. It appeared during the 3e period, but I can't tell where it originated, and its effects have changed considerably in 4e.

People who have been manipulated or neglected by you will react thereafter at -1 (as will anyone with Empathy). You get -3 to all skill rolls made to interact with your past victims, and to all uses of Psychology or Teaching to help anyone. On the upside, you get +1 to Intimidation, and to Interrogation if you use threats or torture. You're convincing at those things; nobody assumes you might be bluffing. You're also immune to the effects of Pitiable.

Some real people who are small-c callous rationalise it as "they should look after themselves" or "they need to be more self-disciplined" and that seems plausible for characters with this disadvantage.

Callous is a useful disadvantage for modelling player characters who are being changed by exposure to violence or fear. This could happen via badly failed fright checks, the Corruption mechanics from Horror, or rationalisation. For example, a GM might let you trade in Pacifism and some character points for Callous: you've moved a long way to the opposite side. Callous is also useful as a Controllable Disadvantage perk (Power-Ups 2), for the Intimidation bonus.

Callous is a common option on templates for characters and races who aren't nice, or are hardened to other people's suffering: generic thugs often have it. It's compulsory for Discworld banshees, cats, elves and gnolls, Action assassins and cleaners, Bio-Tech organleggers, DF Shadow Elves, demons and angels ... you get the picture. There are several quirks based on Callous, or useful to embellish it, in Power-Ups 6. Social Engineering and Back to School add details, and Tactical Shooting has it help with Cool Under Fire.

I've only seen one PC played with Callous, but it was played to the hilt, and worth more than [-5]. I often see some disadvantages played up more than others, and I'm quite happy with that, provided there's consistent characterisation, and the total amount of problems caused is about right.

What problems has Callous caused in your games?

evileeyore 12-23-2017 02:35 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous
 
Zero problems, no one's ever taken it in my games when I've been the GM... and I'm the only Player i can think of who has taken in games I've been in,

Phil Masters 12-23-2017 04:45 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by johndallman (Post 2144889)
I've only seen one PC played with Callous, but it was played to the hilt, and worth more than [-5].

I think that you're forgetting that my character Antoine has it in your Cabal game. I see it as part of the package for an existentialist Cabalist researcher. Actually, I more or less assumed that several of the PCs in that game had it; one needs to be hardened when working for a somewhat amoral organisation and exploring a multiverse, in many parts of which truly horrible things are happening on a global scale.

Come to think of it, I once accused one of the other players of attempting to destruction-test Antoine's callousness. He may be casual about others' suffering, but he doesn't go round being gung-ho about the slaughter of entire planetary populations. If that other character doesn't have Callous, he's missing out on five free points.

johndallman 12-23-2017 04:56 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Phil Masters (Post 2144999)
I think that you're forgetting that my character Antoine has it in your Cabal game.

Yes, I was. He doesn't glory in it like the other character I was thinking of.

Rupert 12-23-2017 04:59 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous
 
At least one character in my current campaign has it - the PC really doesn't care what other people think or feel, except in terms of how making them feel something (fear, usually) might get them to do something he wants. He's also greedy and looks down on people from low-tech worlds. A thoroughly likeable chap, really. The rest of the party tolerate him because he can be depended to have his team-mates back, and he's (very) good in a fight.

Kelly Pedersen 12-23-2017 07:26 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by johndallman (Post 2144889)
I've only seen one PC played with Callous, but it was played to the hilt, and worth more than [-5]. I often see some disadvantages played up more than others, and I'm quite happy with that, provided there's consistent characterisation, and the total amount of problems caused is about right.

Personally, I think this sort of playing up of disadvantages is good justification for tacking on an additional Odious Personal Habit linked to the behavior - something like OPH 1, "Blatantly Callous", or even "Pointlessly Callous" for an additional -2 to reactions.

jason taylor 12-23-2017 09:41 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous
 
What is the Gurps word for "Stern Teacher" or "Harsh Leader" or something like that(You are aware of other people's feelings and pains, and they do matter to you consider the "greater good" more important)?

Someone like General Grant or someone similar perhaps.

Icelander 12-23-2017 09:50 AM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous
 
Callous is pretty popular with PCs in my campaigns. I think it dates back to our first GURPS campaign (3e), which was a pretty dark and gritty covert operations campaign, where stress and failed Fright Checks caused most of the PCs to accumulate psychological trauma over time. Characters suffered mental trauma for the things they did as much as the things that happened to them, with most of them closing in on becoming psychological casualties through guilt, flashbacks and nightmares.

The game started before the movie Munich came out, but that movie would probably be the best summary of the tone of the campaign. The game was based on many of the same sources as the movie, including purported memoirs by state-sanctioned killers and covert operatives.

The Unfazable, Callous character in our campaign was much envied, though there was some suggestion that the reason he was immune to psychological trauma was that he was already ******* crazy.

One other character eventually 'earned' Callous, along with an Addiction to painkillers, Alcoholism, Nightmares and On the Edge. Needless to say, the unit psychologists refused to clear him for missions and he was put on mandatory leave and checked in for detox. One other character, notably without Callous and extremely conflicted about some of the things he had done, had to use Acting and Fast-Talk before each mission to convince the psychologists that he was mentally healthy enough to go.*

I suppose that campaign taught the players involved to associate normal human levels of empathy with psychologically tortured characters, at least if their profession revolved around ruthless violence. In fact, the player of the most humane and sensitive PC in that first campaign is probably the one who likes Callous the most and he usually complains if his character is required to take 'good' Disadvantages like Sense of Duty.

It was that player whose character gave rise to probably the best moment of Callous-inspired play in our gaming. We were playing a cyberpunk campaign and the PCs were at a safe house. They had successfully obtained the information that their mysterious patron had retained them to steal, but had regrettably used rather more violence than originally planned, so they were lying low while a massive manhunt was under way to look for them.

The Callous PC was an experienced spy and covert operative. He'd also come through the firefight at the lawyer's office where they'd stolen the data without any wounds or getting his clothes messed up. As a result, he was sent to buy some extra clothing, fluids and fast food.

While he was out, the other PCs performed first aid on the seriously wounded PC and one of them contacted their employer. Unfortunately, the use of the communication device allowed the corporate security combing the area where their vehicle had last been seen to home in on their location.

When the Callous PC came back carrying a bag of groceries, some track suits from the local version of Walmart's and a bunch of Chinese food in carry-out containers, he saw corporate security tactical teams setting up outside the house. He counted twelve hostiles on the street, with several vehicles moving at the end of the block, meaning that there would be more arriving.

I described the tactical situation to the Callous PC, as he was the only one who had seen the security personnel at that point. Some of them were obviously preparing to set up a perimeter, but they hadn't yet and were obviously willing to let wayfarers move out of the way, as most of those who saw the automatic longarms and full bodyarmour quickly started to do.

After a long silence, the player, having gotten the information that the four hostiles covering a side exit from the building where his team was currently trapped were not paying him any attemption and could be attacked from the rear, by surprise, asked: "I'm Callous, right?"

I answered: "That's right. What are you going to do?"

His answer: "I'm gonna keep walking. And I'm not gonna look back."

*He couldn't just quit, as that would have violated his Sense of Duty by allowing his friends and brothers-in-arms to go into harms way without him.

ericthered 12-23-2017 12:34 PM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous
 
My first Gurps character had Callous. He was a telepath in an ISWAT-like setting who specialized in rewriting minds. I played him as being a reluctant killer, not because of sympathy, but because why kill someone when you can turn them onto your side? (yes, he could make permanent changes)

I think the GM described him as "Pragmatic", and he was a lot of fun to play-- if a little ruthless.

Michael Cule 12-23-2017 01:56 PM

Re: [Basic] Disadvantage of the week: Callous
 
I've seen Callous characters, even had them in my games and though you might think I'd object to it the way I objected to Bully I don't.

I think it's because Callous isn't a disadvantage you need to be actively nasty to portray and brings its downside with it. The penalty on a Callous character trying to understand other people ("Oh, did that hurt you?") or more especially to manipulate them ("No, no, I really care about you! I do! This is my sincere face!") is enough to account for its low donation to the character's build budget.


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